Saturday, September 06, 2008

Dioses (Josue Mendez, 2008)

There’s not really anything that we haven’t seen before in Josue Mendez’s class-based drama Dioses, but that scarcely hobbles the film. While this may not qualify as trenchant satire and may stack the deck against its wealthier characters, it is sure enough of its tone that one can ignore those facts. Focusing on one rich Peruvian family’s dysfunctions, Dioses presents their lives as a hollow series of meaningless parties and sexual dalliances.

Four characters sit at the center of the film. Twenty-one year old Andrea lives the life of a socialite, at least until she discovers she’s pregnant. College-ready Diego is pressured by his dad to enter the family business, but is more focused on lusting after his sister. Prospective stepmother Elisa is desperate, both to hide her working-class roots and to indoctrinate herself in a group of vapid trophy wives. Presiding over the clan is papa Antonio, whose defining characteristic is his blindness to his family’s dissatisfaction.

The film manages to make this stereotypical collection of characters engaging, however. Filmed in a glossy style, Dioses certainly makes the appeal of the lives of Lima’s social elite clear. To provide a point of contrast, director Mendez always keeps the hired help of the family on the periphery, outlining a surprisingly nuanced dynamic between the two groups over the course of the film. It’s to Mendez’s credit that the film resists escalating into the violence that always seems to lurk as a threat in the air. The conclusion he provides instead is both more depressing and probably more realistic.

Rating: 52/100

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